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Fees in the Employment Tribunal

From 29 July 2013 new fees will be introduced into the Employment Tribunal system affecting all claims made after this date. Thereafter claimants will have to pay an initial fixed fee to issue their claim and a further fee to have their claim listed at the Tribunal, with additional fixed fees payable by the parties where certain applications are made.

The fees will be based on the type of claim made (which will increase if there are multiple claimants) and will be as follows: -

Level 1 claims - will generally include lower value claims on the termination of employment such as redundancy pay, unpaid wages and payment in lieu of notice  The issue fee will be £160 and the hearing fee £230

Level 2 claims - will include all other claims such as unfair dismissal, discrimination, equal pay and whistle blowing.  The issue fee will be £250 and the hearing fee will be £950.

This is a major change in the Employment Tribunal system as traditionally claimants do not have to pay a fee to bring a claim in the Tribunal unlike in the Civil Courts.  The absence of any upfront fee has been criticised as the Employment Tribunal is an expensive organisation funded by the taxpayer and the current fee free system has enabled vexatious or claims with little merit to proceed. On the other hand the ability to bring a claim for free has undoubtedly given people the opportunity to pursue a genuine claim in circumstances where they are not able to afford legal representation.

But will the introduction of the fees actually change this?  In order not to prevent people with a low income from bringing a claim the regime will have a remission scheme to allow those claimants to apply to have the fee waived.  Inevitably if a claimant qualifies for remission the possibility for unmerited claims to be made remains to be an issue.  Yet still, those claimants who do not qualify for remission, but who have a good prospect of success, may be deterred from pursuing a claim as they are unable to afford the fees which could cost up to £1,200.  Even if claimants are successful they do not have the automatic right for the fees to be reimbursed as this will be at the discretion of the Judge.  This may have an impact on claimants’ decisions to bring a claim or their ability to settle.

It remains to be seen how the introduction of the fees will affect the Employment Tribunal process.  The hope is that it will lead to a reduction in claims without any merit but at the same time not deter employees with genuine claims – we will have to wait and see.

Amie Rose Vernoum is a Trainee Solicitor with QualitySolicitors Gould & Swayne based in Wells

Legal advice may vary with the circumstances of each case - be sure to take your solicitor’s advice.

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